The 2015 six-hour race at Watkins Glen was a clear example that we’re only as good as our last race. After the high of winning the last round at Laguna Seca and BMW Team RLL’s second victory in a row, we came to Watkins Glen with a lot of momentum and a lot of speed, only to see it slip away.
Watkins Glen is my favorite track in the U.S. It’s fast, flowing, and it suits our Z4 perfectly. We showed that in practice and in the dry laps during the second and third hours of the race.
The weekend was a challenging one with constantly changing conditions from dry to wet and everything in between.
The race start was especially difficult, as rain started falling harder on our pace laps with all the GTLM cars on dry tires. I was pushing, but couldn’t seem to get the grip out of the dry tires in those damp conditions as I watched the Corvettes and Porsches drive away.
Fortunately, we survived that portion of the race and our car came alive as the track dried up. I was able to pull away from Jan Magnussen in the No. 3 Corvette and had a handful of laps battling with Patrick Pilet in the Porsche.
I took advantage of traffic to make a 3-wide pass around the outside of him in Turn 7, which felt very satisfying after trying for many laps to find a way past.
Unfortunately, it all went wrong for me early in my second stint. Lucas brought the car in from the lead, although we lost time on our pit stop due to a PC car stopped in our pit box.
I left the pits expecting the car to be unpredictable on cold tires as usual, but was encouraged that the grip seemed to be there within half a lap. Unfortunately, that gave me a little too much confidence and I pushed a bit harder the second lap.
I got in slightly wider to Turn 6 than I had been early in the race, which put me on a bigger part of the bump in the brake zone. Combined with the cold tires and possibly a slight damp patch, the rear came around and I was backwards before I even realized I was in trouble.
The hit was nothing crazy, but it wasn’t a small impact. Although the team fixed the car, we had been stopped for longer than was left in the race by the time the car was ready. Therefore, we couldn’t gain any positions by going back out even if another car crashed out, so we opted to retire the car.
After setting a promising pace during the race and running at the front, it was a big disappointment to fall back in the championship.
However, even with the crash we are still tied for third and only at the halfway point in the season. We can and will bounce back, and I expect to be fighting for the championship when we get to Petit.